From out of the peace and quiet came an ear-drum thumping "Woof!"

Bill switched on his light and struggled to get out of bed, limping to the phone.


"Shut your dog up!"
"I've got get up early in the morning.
"Two-pair...What dog? Two-pair; Fifteen...that's six... We've got no dog here!"
Bill riffled through the phone book. "Wrong district! Second house on the left," he mumbled. "That should make it..."


"Uh, yellow?"
"Keep your dog quiet!"
Some glass breaks in the background.
"Dog? Did we steal a dog?"
"I've got a conference tomorrow.."
More breaking glass and the sounds of small appliances being stuffed into gunny sacks.
"We ain't got no dog here."
"Isn't this..."
"Wait. You mean, you don't know what address this is?"
"Well, no..."

Bill went into the kitchen and dug out the neighborhood layout; little houses drawn in blue, all in a circle, surrounded by squiggly trees and hills. Using the address-to-telephone directory, he discovered the right number to be...


"Hello. This is Rex. I can't come to the phone right now, as I'm busy yipping and whining, but if you'd care to..."


"This better be a real emergency!"
"Yes. I need either the police or the fire department."
"What is the nature of the emergency?"
"It's a very important speech I'm giving and..."
"The nature, sir?! ...Of the emergency!"
"There's a barking dog outside my bedroom window, and ..."


"Ed's All-Nite Weaponry and Delivery. 'We bring death to your door'."
"Do you have a gun that could kill a dog from, say, two-hundred yards?"
"Yes, sir. That would be our Rex-B-Ded 2000, a very popular item."
"Well, then, send one right over please."
"Uh, well, sir, it's been a little TOO popular these last few weeks, and it seems, well, uh, we've run completely out of stock. I could reorder one and have it sent..."


"...yipping and whining..."
"...and I'll get right back to you."
"Knock it off,!"
Bill clicked off the light and tried to get back to sleep.'

At One A.M. the phone rang.
"Hello? Bill said in a groggy voice.


In a whisper, a voice asked, "Yes?"
"Is this Shelf-Life?"
"I hear the wine cellars in Baggerie are kept quite cool."
"Twelve degrees at the cork."
"Yeah. Who do you want bumped off?"
"Nothing too serious. Just a dog."
"A doggie?"
"Yes. You see, I've got an early appointment, and..."
"A little defenseless doggie?!"
"...I've only got a few hours of sleep left, and..."
"A cute, wet-nosed, sit-on-your-lap doggie?!!"
"...this dog keeps barking outside my window, and..."


"Gorgon's Spellcasting. 'We sweat Evilness from every pore!"
"Can you cast long-range spells?"
"Depends. How far?"
"Um, from the Olive district to where I live, um, about fifty miles."
"Sure. Okay. Who is it you want us to hex, vex or perplex?"
"Er, Rex."
"Rex? Isn't that a dog's name?"
"In this case... er, yes."
"Well, what do you want us to change him into? A cat? A grocery bagger? An old piece of ratty carpet?"
"I would very much like you to kill him!"
"Oh, ...I don't know. I mean, we're evil and all that, but we've never really stooped to killing innocent..."


"Is this Crazy Phill, the explosives expert?"
"That's meheeheeee..."
"I'd like you to come and blow up a dog's house, and I don't want you to stop until that annoying creature is dead. He lives one block north of Fig Leaf Way..."

"Well, that was easy," Bill Swagger said to himself as he dropped his head gently against his pillow. "I'm sure he'll hear that awful barking and then...Bang! That dog is as good as history."
Off in the distance, the strange choking restrains of an untuned engine came within ear-strangling distance.
"Phill," Bill said, turning off the light, a smile delicately etched onto his face. "I should have called him in the first place. Nighty-night little barker."
There was a sudden explosion, followed by the nerve-bending insobriety of Crazy Phill's laughter, which in turn was followed by a faint BARK!
Bill Swagger's eyes popped open. "He got the wrong house."
Another explosion, this time much farther away.
The phone rang, and Bill quickly turned on the lights and hopped out of bed.
After a brief moment of apparently calculated silence, Bill was challenged by a sarcastic, "BOW WOW."
Bill slammed down the phone, just as another explosion rattled his windows.


"You have reached the first circle of Hell. What's your poison?"
"I would like to sell my soul, please."
"Uh, yes, sir. What is so special about your soul that we might be willing to purchase it?"
"Um, what do you mean?"
"Well, what's your religious preference, for starters?"
"I'm, uh, agnostic."
Long pause. "I'll have to check with my supervisor. What else do you got?"
"Look. I want to sell my soul, and I don't want a lot of hassles."
Another pause.
"Okay, sir. We'll be sending an agent to talk this over with you."
"How soon? I've got an early..."

Within half an instant, a poof of clouds erupted in Bill's bedroom. When it cleared there was a red man, wearing a cheap, double-breasted suit, with black horns poking out from under his hat.
"I'm Pith," said the creature, sticking out it's hoof to shake.
Bill reluctantly reached for it.
"So you've got a dog problem, have you?"
"Er, uh, um, yes."
"Well, let me make you a deal. As a representative of the Underworld, I can give you quite a good deal... for a limited time only... if you'll just sign here..."
"I thought that we were to review my situation first."
"No, no no." He laughed. "All of the preliminary work as been done by my, uh, secretary. The contract is all drawn. All I need is your signature -- in blood, of course -- and we can part two happy creatures."
The demon handed Bill a pen, which had a hollow tip point and a syringe at the back.
"Are you sure you're from Hell? I mean the lady I spoke with didn't seem very enthusiastic with me!"
"Well, actually," Pith said in a low whisper, cupping his hoof to his mouth. "My agency intercepted your call with the first circle and, well, frankly, we can give you a better deal."
"Better deal?"
"Yes. We keep your soul for, say, forty weeks a year, with an optional lease package to Purgatory and Limbo, and you can spend your weekends behind the Pearly-Gates!"
"Sounds good."
"Indeedy it does," the demon said. "Now if you'll just sign here..."
"Sign here!"
Bill was apprehensive. "I.. get sick when I see blood."
Pith grimaced and began to tap on the paper near the signature line.
Bill stuck the syringe in his arm, taking care not to look and pulled back the level. He nearly passed out, nauseated, as they rushing blood left his body.
He, however, signed.
"Thank you very much," said Pith, handing Bill a pink slip of paper. "This is your copy. Keep it in a safe place! Your soul is hereby claimable upon the moment of death. See you soon!"
In a blink, he was gone.
Bill suddenly became agitated, not because of the massive explosion that rock his neighbors' house into rubble, but because of something the demon said.
"What do you mean SOON?"
There was no response.
An instant later, however, the barking ceased. The whining was no more. The yipping and baying and woofing had all diminished into a black hole of silence.
"The dog is dead," Bill whispered to himself, happily.
Quickly, he hopped back into bed, pulled the covers over his head and stuck a wandering hand out to search for the light switch: As the hairy-knuckled thing traveled around its two foot arc of restriction, it found many things which weren't necessarily part of the lamp's anatomy: a wadded up ball of gum; a crunched beer can; a flimsy and hard square of paper which Bill had cleared his nasal passages into; and something so repulsive and wet and porous it made him leap two feet above the box-springs.
When he landed, Bill was staring blank-eyed, into the unkempt face of an over-sized poodle.
Bill threw himself out of bed; the lime-green sheets not exactly comfortable with the idea of Bill jumping in and out of bed, hugged his neck closely and stayed with him like a moldy Superman cape.
"Maybe I'll just have a little look-see at that contract of mine."
From behind his mattresses, he pulled out a pink sheet of paper
"...And therefore, Bill Swagger," he said after scanning the document, "shall keep an eye on the dog and make sure that the beast stays quiet!"
He let the words settle in his stomach.
"I think I just got shafted."
The poodle agreed. "Boof!"
And just after the moment Crazy Phill blew up his garage/workshop, Bill remembered what he had told the madman explosives specialist.
"He's not going to stop until he kills that dog!" Bill ran to the window and saw the man sneaking around in his backyard..."
"Phill," he yelled down. "You can stop now!"
"Teeheehee," the crazy man said. "I've been tracking the doggie all night..."
"No, Phill. It's all right!"
"And I've got good news, Billyheehee. He's inside your house."
In Crazy's hand, Bill saw a horrifying sight, silver and glowing in the moonlight -- and electric switch, itching to be set off.
"Everything's under con..."


Words by BMB Johnson

Artwork by Jody Hughes

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Original comic book started circa 2006